The media reported for weeks that a total eclipse of the sun was due to trip the light fantastic across the central Florida sky in the midafternoon on August 21, 2017. There was a lot of hype. Apparently, it was a big deal. I didn’t pay much attention at first. I had plans to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom that day with my cousin and his family who were vacationing from New York. That had way more priority on my excitement agenda than some freak natural phenomenon.
Then, a friend mentioned that she had gone to Lowe’s to buy special eclipse-viewing, sun-filtering protective glasses. I decided I should get in on the action. I hauled myself to Lowe’s, only to find that there were no more oxymoronic sun-watching, sun-blocking glasses to be had. The long-suffering Lowe’s employees must have tired of answering plaintive questions about them because someone had made a small cardboard sign, proclaiming “Glasses All Sold Out” scrawled in pencil. When I told my friend about my failure to obtain the all-important glasses, she looked pensive and then said, “It wouldn’t surprise me if Disney actually has something for the eclipse.” I promised that, if Disney did not provide specially themed protective glasses, I would not stare into the sun and burn out my retinas.
When I got to Animal Kingdom, it turned out that Disney did, indeed, have something for the eclipse. The “something” consisted of large signs posted throughout the park that said, in effect, “don’t look up.”
I’m not sure if the eclipse really had much of an effect. For one thing, clouds are pretty much of an eclipse buzzkill. Cloud-free afternoons in August in central Florida are about as rare as a solar eclipse itself. August 21st was no exception. The sun was pretty much eclipsed… by threatening rain clouds. Between the clouds, the signs, and my own good sense, I did not scrutinize the sky to see if the sun looked any different. On the other hand, the world under the sky may have looked somewhat different. Usually, when the sun is obscured by clouds, the sky is dark, but I wouldn’t say the world looks particularly dark when I look around me. My surroundings maybe don’t seem so bright and iridescent, but I think everything still looks sharp and clear. During the eclipse, the world around me may have seemed a bit more beige and grainy. It felt sort of like I was looking at the world through a really dirty window.
Notice I say “may” have looked somewhat different and “may” have seemed a bit more beige and grainy. It is hard for me to be definitive about the whole thing. While I was pondering the effects of the eclipse, it struck me that I am truly not that certain if the look of the world changes in the same way when there are just clouds and shadows. I don’t know that I’ve ever stopped to observe and consider the idea on a normal, cloudy day. I’m not sure if the differences I noticed were truly effects of the eclipse or if it was just that I was being more attentive and noticing things that are always there, eclipse or not. It may be simply that there was no discernable difference. The eclipse may just have jolted me from my tedium and blotted out what I think I know about the world around me. The condition and event of the eclipse just forced me to stop and take mindful notice of my surroundings. Maybe the clouds always make it look like there is a veil of grime swathing the world and I just never stopped to notice.
I think most of us go through life with a pretty firm belief that we have a sound empirical and sensory knowledge of our surroundings, but I also think that we would be surprised at how we might change or supplement that knowledge if we challenged ourselves to observe with fresh eyes. People say that it is important to stop and smell the roses. I’m sure there are hundreds or thousands of fascinating, poetic details in our world that go unnoticed every day until some major event like an eclipse motivates us to truly experience our natural world. Maybe the eclipse changed nothing but my perception.
Maybe there were changes related to the total eclipse of the sun itself, but maybe there were more changes related to the total eclipse of the brain.
My apologies that this post is pretty much “old news” by now. I wrote it in late August, but my mom’s death and Hurricane Irma pushed it to the back burner. For those of you who actually still remember the solar eclipse, what do you think? Did anything truly look different? Or did you just notice details that are probably there all the time but we just don’t notice them?
Have a sunshine-y day!
P.S. But wait, there’s more! No, I am not selling ginzu knives. I just wanted to let you know that you can have an extra helping of Terri this week. The nice people at www.retirementandgoodliving.com asked me to guest post on their site. You can go to www.retirementandgoodliving.com and hit the blog button if you want to check it out.